Archive for the ‘Visual Arts’ Category

East Meets West, Old Meets New: The Dreamlike Beauty of Hua Hua Zhang’s Experimental Puppetry

Posted August 16th, 2017

Hua Hua Zhang with a puppet from White Nights

You enter a room and are surrounded by translucent white. There are strange, undulating formations, and a strange, ghostly light filters down from a hidden source. You feel as if you are on the surface of the moon. Welcome to White Nights, the newest production by Hua Hua Zhang of Visual Expressions. Hua Hua has been working in puppetry for over thirty-five years, creating productions that are both unique in their style and dazzling in their beauty. She aims to combine Eastern and Western art in her work, as well as old traditions with contemporary styles. Her work breaks the boundaries that have defined puppetry for generations, combining it with poetry, visual art, dance, theater, and music. White Nights is an experimental work, a series of dreamlike scenes that can be interpreted in a multitude of ways by the audience, all aiming for a path toward peace of mind. There will be a half-an-hour preview of the show during the 2017 FringeArts Festival. The final show will take place in November.

The series of images in White Nights makes use of individual characters, some of them curious, others in love, others lonely. It will take place in the large gallery space of the Asian Arts Initiative. The setting is a giant desert, based on the Chinese poem Night. The audience will sit on the ground, around a small “pool of water,” and will be surrounded by pods that will serve as Chinese lanterns and shadowy silhouettes from Chinese ink paintings, as well as other symbols of a moon and a sun. The puppeteers will perform around the audience, who may interact with their movements. Musicians Bhob Rainy and Gamin Kang will also be present on the space, playing live music and interacting with the narratives. There will be four puppet performers who have been trained in the style developed by Hua Hua. The performers use the stylized movements of traditional Chinese performance, but use the puppets in an entirely different way, showing their entire bodies and moving with their objects. Interactions between the performers and the audience, and between the puppet performers and their puppets, cause constant questioning of their roles: the performer wonders, “Am I manipulating this puppet, or is the puppet manipulating me?” while the audience asks, “Am I watching the show, or am I a part of it?”

Curious Figure at the 27th Annual National Puppetry Conference

The characters in the show find themselves in the middle of a desert, and explore their environment, which changes throughout the show. There is a paper woman, a rose, a fairy, three masked persons, and a lonely “figure,” who has a magical dance with a balloon. These characters are reminiscent of The Little Prince: they are isolated from any recognizable society, however, they are familiar to us. “I don’t want to tell the audience what to believe,” says Hua Hua. “I want each person to interpret it on their own. I think contemporary art needs the audience involved, being a part of the creation, being a part of the journey, connection with their own journey, instead of just me.” Hua Hua creates each of these puppets herself in her home studio. She created the lonely “figure,” who has no name, when she, herself, was feeling lonely, and like many artists, used her craft as a cathartic motion. “The moment I feel that, I do the sculpture. I made the whole figure simple, with just one leg. When I’m making the piece, I don’t realize the origin. Art can release you, and tell you, you have something to show. It’s kind of a ghost—intuition, or instinct.” She follows the character of the puppet that she’s created to build the scene. “Sometimes, when I’m first creating the sculpture, I have no story, but my sculpture tells me the story. If I see, he’s a little sad, I follow the sadness, and I get a sad story.” Another puppet she made appeared as if he was looking for something. “This is the curious puppet, and he is a dreamer. I wanted to explore immigration. We dream. We dream about America, we dream about it being beautiful and creating freedom. He’s so curious. That is where I come in. I’m curious! What does this country look like? What is it like to be an artist, with a freedom of expression?”

While Hua Hua is highly skilled in both the creation and performance of her puppets, she was not able to fully express herself when living in China. “It was very controlling at that time, twenty years ago. I wanted to be an artist, but they assigned me as a performer. I wasn’t even a sculptor, but I wanted to make sculptures and paint.” She was able to make visual art after coming to the United States. She had trained at the Beijing Academy of Performing Arts, but in 1996, joined the University of Connecticut for a Masters of Fine Arts in Puppet Art. At the time, it was the only program of its kind. As a student, she was able to start sculpting and painting, and her professors found that she had an innate talent for making visual art. “I didn’t even know I had it inside of me.” She began creating puppets and developed an individual style, using the entire body to interact with the puppet. Later, she attended a workshop with

Hua Hua in her studio

legendary puppet artist Albrecht Roser. “I wanted to manipulate the puppet, and I wanted to learn how to control it, but he said, ‘Everybody, listen. Sometimes, you have to listen to the puppet, the puppet will tell you.’ It was very spiritual.” His work influenced hers, and she found that after creating a puppet, the goal of the puppet performer is to follow the whims of the character inside that object, rather than manipulating it completely. “I’m performing, but still, I feel it through me. I give the transition for the soul for the object.” Their entire body is often visible, unless occasionally hidden by long sheets of fabric that still move dynamically with the angles of the performer.

This is where Hua Hua Zhang’s shows become remarkably interdisciplinary. In order to be effective as one of her puppeteers, you must be highly skilled in dance and theater, as well as puppetry. She trains many of the performers that work with her, and is currently training the three that will be in the show. She trained many dancers for a long time, but then found that it was much better to train actors. “The movement is very stylized. You need to make sure you see, you think, you react, and then see again. You have to have both dance, and thought. I was working with theater, and it was a journey.” One of these performers is Elizabeth Weinstein, a Philadelphia-based movement artist, educator, and doula. Another is Travis Daniel Draper, who is trained in physical theater and animation. The third is Jeanne Lyons, who is an interdisciplinary performing artist. Both Jeanne and Travis study at the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training, while Elizabeth completed her study at the Headlong Performance Institute. Hua Hua enjoys working with actors like them immensely, who are still relatively new to the world of performance, and are excited about the unique opportunities that puppetry has for the theater.

The production combines all of these elements with original music. Again combining east and west, old and new, the two musicians will play their work live. Bhob Rainey (also composing for the Fringe Festival curated show Hello Blackout!) is a sound designer, who is also an award-winning composer. He uses electronics in much of his music, and will be intertwining these sounds with that of Gamin Kang. Gamin is a South Korean musician, who is one of the most celebrated traditional musicians in her country. She is the yisuja of the Intangible Cultural Asset Number 46 for two instruments, the piri and the daechita. She also plays a Korean oboe called the taepyeongso, and the saengwhang, a very ancient wind instrument. Bhob will perform on the drums at a point in the show, dressed as a demon and surrounded by additional demons. Gamin will be in the Fairy’s Dream scene, interacting with a giant flower. A fourth puppet performer, Chad Williams, will be intertwining his more traditional puppet style into the show. “He has a very standard, American hand-puppet style. I want to experiment by putting it into my Eastern show, and blend them together.” His puppet, however, will be minimalist, and he will be experimenting as well, using his full body to move with the puppet.

Three puppets from White Nights

Hua Hua is constantly working at the edges of these disciplines, and pushing forward the boundaries of puppetry and its potential. “I want to honor the tradition of puppetry as well as take a risk to push the limits of traditional puppetry into the contemporary. Most people see puppet art with a narrow vision,” she says. “Puppetry is considered entertainment for children, that can be performed by anyone.” While she does performances for families, they are much more traditional, and are not at all experimental in the way of her more avant-garde works like White Nights. Puppet art crosses the limitations of time and space, allowing us all to explore the furthest reaches of imagination and opening us to endless creative possibilities.” In order to explore its potential, she says that people must understand that puppetry is all about movement, not just in the hands. She teaches through the stylized performance art of the Chinese theater. “I teach my students that their feet are the connection to the earth, and sending the energy through their body to the puppet, to give a soul of puppet life.” Her puppets are not controlled by strings, or stuck onto poles. Instead, they are sometimes in the forms of masks, or large beings suspended on various sticks. While they look simple in form (albeit complicated in the detail on their faces,) learning the performance to master their technique takes time and practice.

Finding the “soul of the puppet” is the ultimate goal for her puppet performers, again asking themselves if they are controlling the puppet, or if the puppet leads them to move. This ambiguity is what drives much of her work, including the premise of White Nights. She was inspired by an ancient Taoist philosopher, Zhangzi. “He had a dream that he had become a butterfly, and derived pleasure from flying. After he awakened, he asked whether he dreamed he was a butterfly, or if the butterfly was dreaming that he was a man,” she says. “This ambiguity is explored throughout the show by blurring the line between reality and dream.” While her art acts as a meditation on her life experiences, it aims to do the same for anyone watching the show. “The show connects my life experiences and the experiences of others with today’s society, issues, and concerns. It connects with audience members, giving them inspiration to explore their true selves and, hopefully, find balance and inner peace.”

White Nights
Hua Hua Zhang/Visual Expressions

$10 / 30 minutes

Asian Arts Initiative: Dance Studio C
1219 Vine Street

Sept 19 at 7:30pm + 9pm


– Isabella Siegel

Photos: Richard Termine (banner, second photo, and last photo,) Hua Hua Zhang (sixth photo,) and Adam Danoff (all other photos)

Whispers from the Wall: The Silk Graffiti of Aubrie Costello

Posted August 4th, 2017

Walking down many streets in Philadelphia is like wandering an art gallery for graffiti. The tags of artists like SAGA, KAD, and LAZZ fill the walls with a calligraphy that has become a unique Philly handstyle. These, along with colorful street art projects, have made the city a vibrant center for the growth and evolution of graffiti, some even becoming three dimensional installations. You may spot some of these words made of flickering strands of fabric hanging from a wall, a fence, or a bridge. This is the work of “silk graffiti” artist Aubrie Costello, who uses long strips of Dupioni silk to write phrases around the city. Although the pieces are often large, they feel intimate, like their speaker is whispering to passersby. Some of her work is hung on the streets, while other pieces reside in nature, and others still have migrated into gallery spaces. This year, she is collaborating with dancers Jess Noel, Leslie Davidson, and Fatima Adamu in an interdisciplinary production, Show Me What You Want Me To See, or SWMYWMTS. The dance performance will take place inside a gallery with its walls covered in silk writing. An accompanying film by Lendl Tellington follows the trajectory of a romance between Jess and Leslie in the apartment of Victoria Prizzia, which is similarly filled in Aubrie’s silk calligraphy. This is interspersed with a separate story of love lost, performed by Fatima in a cemetery, as well as shots of more silk words and phrases fill a forest in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The work is also a collaboration with composer Josh Hey, who has created ghostly and powerful original score (with a few surprise musical guests!) This interdisciplinary performance is in an intimate gallery space, accompanied by a screening of the film. The curves in the silk are mimicked in the movements of the dancers, bringing through its ephemeral but powerful emotive voice.

Silk graffiti by Aubrie Costello in Gravy Gallery and Studio

Aubrie grew up in the quiet Pine Barrens, and went to a public school where the arts were nurtured. Without much to do in their area, the kids in this town chose to make art. “There were a lot of graffiti artists, and skate kids, and musicians that are in Philadelphia now in bands. So I guess we all had that deep itch to make stuff, and now we’re in a city that is more nurturing for that.” Aubrie’s father was a woodworker, who did everything with his hands. “He would even hand draw all of his estimates and specs and documents. He didn’t do anything on a computer.” Aubrie herself absorbed the love for “do-it-yourself” aspect of a project—if given the choice, she also prefers a more analogue approach to her work. She went to the Moore College of Art and Design in 2003, where she began studying fashion design before transitioning to a major in Drawing and Painting. While she loved drawing and making her own clothes, she couldn’t enjoy the business aspect of fashion. She threw herself instead into creating art installations, and began investigating new ways of using silk. One such installation involved a huge pile of high heeled shoes, bound, or “mummified,” in silk. She would cover the gallery wall with drawings that would mirror the installation. While she was at Moore, professors would often wander into students’ studio spaces to check out their work and give them advice. One such offering was from a professor who taught fiber arts, which she had never even taken. “She came into my studio one day, and I was using silk very differently. I was stretching it on canvas stretcher bars. She said she liked it, but she said ‘You’re not letting the fabric speak for itself.’ And that was one of the things that stuck with me, I actually think about that to this day. Sometimes I want to do more to the fabric, but then I think back to what she said. The fabric alone can have its own emotive quality.”

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In “Urgent Care,” The Colored Girls Museum Offers Itself as a Sanctuary and First Responder

Posted July 28th, 2017

“Chamber” by Joy Ude and Petra Floyd

Walking down Newhall Street in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, it’s hard to tell that one of these houses is not like the others. After a moment, you’ll find a wooden sign for The Colored Girls Museum (TCGM) outside of a 128-year-old Victorian twin. Since 2015, TCGM has been quietly redefining the role of museums in Philadelphia. The house is the home of the founder and executive director of the museum, Vashti Dubois. She founded the museum as a celebration of women of color, as well as a living memoir and sanctuary. Michael Clemmons is the curator for the museum, and has known and worked with Vashti for many years. “I think that what our museum does is very unique, distinct from everything else that’s out there,” he says. “In many ways, it’s the only museum of its kind.” From July 29 to July 30, the museum will be presenting its last showings of the current show, Urgent Care: A Good Night’s Sleep, before closing to prepare for its Fringe Festival event, Urgent Care: A Social Care Experience.

TCGM is telling a story that few other art spaces are, in a way that uses art as a place for conversation. The museum is a living monument “for the ordinary and extraordinary colored girl,” bringing her voice out highlighting her concerns. “When you shine the light on anything,” says Vashti, “you begin to notice its extraordinary qualities, but you have to look at it first.” The museum’s exhibitions respond to current social issues, and the “Urgent Care” shows reflect heightened concerns for women of color after the 2016 election. There is a huge variety of beautiful and fascinating objects throughout the house, which are a conglomeration of  historical artifacts and new works of art. Artists who work with the museum either submit their own work, curate a space, or add objects from their own past or family history that are significant to the space’s collective memoir. “Those objects have a story that is important to the woman submitting them,” says Michael, “which is curated into the space.” The museum leaders and staff refer to the museum with she/her pronouns, speaking of the space as a person, rather than a stagnant building. Vashti explains how this reflects the moving and changing aspects of the museum: objects come and go, and rooms within her walls change to reflect changing times.  “The concept in a way is very simple,” says Michael. “In a sense, it’s a story that hasn’t been told, and it should be told. It’s very much a home, it’s relaxing, and it’s a different kind of museum experience.”

Second Floor Bedroom, or “Recovery Suite” in “Urgent Care”

Walking into Salon 1, on the first floor, the museum already feels entirely different from any other galleries. Rather than white walls and echoing hallways, this is a home. Salon 1 is a part of the semi-permanent collection, and many works of art were a part of the inaugural exhibition in 2015. The paintings on the wall are hung in a “salon style,” covering the space, and are interspersed with small statues, old portrait photographs, and personal artifacts, including a singular knee-high tie-dye boot. There are very few name cards on the walls— instead, everyone who comes into the museum is brought on a tour. Through conversation, guests learn which paintings on the wall are by Barbara Bullock, a celebrated African American artist in Germantown that Michael described as almost a “mother figure” in the Philadelphia arts community. There are quilts from fiber artist Toni Kersey, and doll figures by Lorrie Patrice Payne. The experience is intimate and allows for conversations about the art — often, with the artists themselves.

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#AllYourMarketing All Day, Every Day

Posted September 24th, 2016

Since the 2016 Fringe Festival opened on September 9, our indomitable marketing department hasn’t just been getting all the words out about it, they’ve been participating in it. #AllYourMarketingpart of Digital Fringe, found the audacious trio of Dan Comly, Anna Kroll, and Hallie Martenson live-streaming themselves at their desk throughout each long, arduous Festival work day. Every crisis, every triumph, every sandwich was on display for all the world to see. Sadly, just as the Festival must come to an end, so must this bold exercise in transparency. The stream will be going offline after today, but if you missed any of the excitement check out some highlights below.


THINGS ARE HAPPENING. Happy Festival. — Hallie


Listening to hold music [featuring Nick Stuccio]. — Anna


Lonely Saturday in the office. Keep me company? — Hallie

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Inhabiting habitus

Posted September 23rd, 2016

There’s something special happening across the street from FringeArts. habitus, organized by the Fabric Workshop and Museum and part of the 2016 Fringe Festival, is on view now at Municipal Pier 9 until October 10, free and open to the public during scheduled hours. Visitors have found themselves enraptured by the dreamlike beauty of this interactive interior landscape. Here are just some of the recent posts showing off the serene spectacle of this must visit installation.

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Interior Landscapes: An Interview with Ann Hamilton

Posted September 20th, 2016

Ann Hamilton is a visual artist known for her large-scale multimedia installations, flowing fabrics and the immersive atmosphere of her work. Hamilton has filled Pier 9 along the Delaware River with a field of spinning curtains, creating an interior landscape within which, suspended in time, a visitor can be both lost and held. habitus, organized by the Fabric Workshop and Museum and part of the 2016 Fringe Festival, is on view now, free and open to the public during scheduled hours. habitus also includes a corresponding exhibition of historical objects—including literary commonplace books, textile sample books, dolls, and needlework portfolios—at The Fabric Workshop and Museum from Saturday, September 17, 2016 to Sunday, January 8, 2017. We caught up with Hamilton earlier this summer to discuss her interest in fabric, Philadelphia’s textile history and the character of Pier 9.


Ann Hamilton (photo by Michael Mercil, courtesy of Ann Hamilton Studio)

FringeArts: What was the inspiration for this installation?

Ann Hamilton: The Fabric Workshop and Museum began as a place for making. Initially they made a home for students, interns and artists to silkscreen. Pulling color across a screen transformed the surface of a white cloth.  The process repeated made a whole room and changed the way you feel. It is an institution that like FringeArts trusts artists and believes in the power of acts of making and transformation and this is an inspiration.

More specifically, the Fabric Workshop and Museum is rooted in the history of cloth, textile related processes and productions. They make a place for artists to explore and extend their vocabularies, to ask “what-if?” My history also begins with a cloth on my lap and so this project began in response to our shared legacy and collaborations by exploring Philadelphia based textile collections and local industries who have been in production over several generations. Littlewood Dyers does vat dying of raw fiber for a whole host of clients including the intense purple in a Disney costumes and the deep blue/black of Navy wools. The several hour tour of Littlewood, a highlight along with the loom and weaving production at Langhorne Carpet Company—where the scale the reeling of thread and the looms that have been in operation for decades—are inspiration for several project to come. Watching a raw material become a single thread, join other thread to become a warp or weft of a cloth or carpet holds for me all the possibilities for making; sewing and writing are for me two parts of the same hand. In the former the hand directs with subtle sureness a needle through a cloth up, down, up then down again and again and again, a running succession, the trail of thread making one out of what was once two. The pace is regular like walking, like writing. It keeps the body busy so the mind can wander.


Ann Hamilton, (habitus • doll ) Doll, 1800–1820. Papier-mâché; Wood; Linen; Cotton; Paint; Silk. Courtesy of Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, Gift of Katherine Gahagan, Michael H. du Pont, and Christopher T. du Pont in memory of A. Felix du Pont, Jr., 1999.19.1.

I have long been drawn to textile sample books—the cloth fragments, the hand written notes, the folio sized pages, their gorgeous unintentional compositions, and find in them a relation to the fragments of writing, inspiring to the collector, intentionally gathered into a commonplace book. The liquidity of the copied out text in the handwritten books, or the cut and paste of more contemporary versions are sources stitched into thinking just as the bits of cloth pasted into the textile books imagine a larger cloth or garment. We were shown beautiful swatch, sample, and dye books in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collection, Winterthur Library, and Philadelphia University whose archives contain so much of the city’s textile history. The project will include examples from each of these collections. As well as commonplace books from Rosenbach Library, the Philadelphia Free library and others. The history and tactility of these objects began the project.

FA: What was the process from initial idea to installation? 

Ann Hamilton: A project always begins with an intuition, a hunch, a half formed question – these direct the research and through an associative and often circuitous process the project forms from trying to understand them. The challenge is to trust the process and remain open to change, to keep putting your needle down into the cloth and see what is drawn up from underneath. I suppose it is a little like fishing. You have to wait and see what you will find and in waiting you have to pay attention to everything.

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The CRUX of Digital Fringe

Posted September 8th, 2016

Before 2014 Andrew Cameron Zahn was looking for a studio space and a way to build relationships with other digital artists after completing his MFA. He came across a space too large to serve as a personal studio, and after some deliberation and conversation with colleagues and friends, Zahn created CRUXspace, Philly’s only New Media Art gallery.

Zahn and Brickley at CRUXspace

Zahn and Brickley at CRUXspace

“Most of our shows are experiments,” he laughs. In the two years since its opening the gallery has featured an exhibition of work by internet provocateur Molly Soda, a collaboration with Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program and several other shows exploring the boundaries of new technology. This Friday, as the Fringe begins, Zahn and Kim Brickley open the gallery’s doors for Digital Fringe @ CRUXspace.

After the success of last year’s premiere Digital Fringe there was one piece of feedback that many artists repeated: there should be a place for digital artists to meet, experience each other’s work. Echoing the interest of Digital Fringe Artists, Zahn and Brickley explain that having a physical space can be more impactful to audiences of digital art, that interaction with people in the space is nearly as important as interaction with the works of art themselves. They both agree that gallery openings are very important to them as ways of meeting interesting people and gaining new perspective on what they display. On the other hand, Brickley, head curator of CRUXspace, believes that “the beauty of digital art is that you can question traditional work, and physical location becomes obsolete.” Audiences around the world can participate in Philly Fringe as well as those who are able to make it to Kensington.crux

Zahn and Brickley curated some artists into Digital Fringe in an effort to present more interactive work, things that push the envelope. “There’s a performance element to interactive art,” Zahn explains in discussing the reason for collaboration with FringeArts. See the Digital Fringe display experiment at CRUXspace Friday, September 9.

–Emily Dombrovskaya

Exploring the contents of Room 21

Posted September 2nd, 2016
Above image: Ensemble view, Room 21, south wall, The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 2016.



Amedeo Modigliani, 
Italian, 1884–1920. 
Reclining Nude from the Back (Nu couché de dos), 1917.
 Oil on canvas,
 25 1/2 x 39 1/4 in. (64.8 x 99.7 cm).
 BF576, The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Image © 2016 The Barnes Foundation

On September 9, Jace Clayton (aka DJ /rupture) will premiere his latest work Room 21 at the Barnes Foundation as part of the 2016 Fringe Festival. Co-presented with the Barnes Foundation and curated by Lee Tusman in collaboration with Ars Nova Workshop, the site-specific performance is an inspired musical response to the artworks of Room 21 at the Barnes Foundation and Albert Barnes’ extensive record collection. Joining Clayton is an ensemble of more than a dozen musicians, including the Prometheus Chamber Orchestra, banjoist Ben Lee, Ethiopian Musician Gezachew Habtemariam and Pianist Emily Manzo, all wearing custom costumes handcrafted by fashion designer Rocio Salceda of Prellezo. This is a remarkable one night only event, an inspired engagement with one of Philadelphia’s most storied institutions. For more info and tickets click here.


Austrian. Christ Carrying the Cross, c. 1460. Tempera and oil with gold and silver leaf on panel, 29 3/8 x 51 1/2 in. (74.6 x 130.8 cm). BF396, The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Image © 2016 The Barnes Foundation

When Jace Clayton first found himself in Room 21 of the Barnes Foundation he was struck by what seemed to him an extremely personal organizational logic. It’s a well known fact that Albert Barnes held strong to his personal, cultivated aesthetic theories, but never imposed them on his visitors beyond his arrangements. Presenting his collection without the curatorial commentary museum attendees often expect, he created spaces for viewers to approach each piece free from explicit outside mediation. Room 21, Clayton found, encapsulated this kind of aggressive formalism. With one hundred and thirty pieces contained within its four walls, the small space intermingles renowned masters and unidentified artisans, the functional and the ornamental, the sacred and the profane.


Possibly Bamana or Marka peoples. Mask, late 19th–early 20th century. Wood, resin, 24 x 7 5/8 x 6 7/8 in. (61 x 19.4 x 17.5 cm). A224. Photo © 2016 The Barnes Foundation

One of the room’s most famous work, Amedeo Modigliani’s Reclining Nude from the Back, hangs adjacent to and across from various Northern European religious paintings possibly dating back to the 15th century. Directly across from the nude by the young artist of whom Barnes was an early champion, is the large tableau Christ Carrying the Cross. This juxtaposition may have offended some of the foundation’s Christian visitors, and it’s amusing to imagine Barnes finding a punkish glee in creating it. Still, one must assume he knew exactly what he was doing as such curation is in line with his formalist leanings. It requires of viewers to divorce any beliefs they may hold that are irrelevant to the physical work itself.


William James Glackens. 
American, 1870–1938
. Eight Figures, c. 1910
. Black crayon with gouache on brown wove paper
, 12 1/8 x 14 3/8 in. (30.8 x 36.5 cm)
. BF641, The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Image © 2016 The Barnes Foundation

It is in part this disregard for context that makes the foundation, and Room 21 in particular, such an anomalous gem among other art institutions. Where most curate their collections around specific artists, movements, or mediums, here visitors are treated to a trove of fine art and meticulously crafted objects from all over the world, side by side. In Room 21 alone, displayed among three separate cases are numerous 19th–early 20th century figures, masks, and tools from various African ethnic groups; adorning the wall space around notable paintings are an assortment of ornate bolts, keyhole escutcheons, tools, hinges, and latches, among other functional objects; and there are also elegant, handcrafted chairs placed around the perimeter. The space feels relative to how people let art inhabit their lives, which stands in opposition to much traditional curation that aims to convey contextual and historical narratives alongside the art. The only hints of narrative that exist in Room 21 suggest something far more personal.

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Fringe Festival 2016 Spotlight: Suitable for All Ages

Posted August 30th, 2016

Just because it’s at the Fringe doesn’t mean you have to leave the kids at home. Check out some of the Festival’s productions appropriate for all ages. Bring the whole family!


(photo by Colleen Joy)


Spherus @ Philadelphia School of Circus Arts
Greg Kennedy – Innovative Juggler

Updated for this year’s Fringe, Spherus: a trio-show featuring international juggling champion Greg Kennedy, complemented by aerial dancers, Rachel Lancaster & Christine Morano. In collaboration with video-projection artist Jeff Bethea, multimedia effects enhance venue installation, juggling sculptures & acrobatics. More info and tickets here.


Ready for Night by Linda Dubin Garfield



Clothing: Stories from the Closet @ The Book Trader
Linda Dubin Garfield / Susan DiPronio

Clothing: it’s what you chose to wear, how you adorn yourself; it shows who you are. It’s what drapes the windows of your soul; clothing defines or hides you. Share your story—write it, create it, tell about it. Art materials provided at on-going workshops. Proceeds benefit victims of human trafficking. More info and tickets here.



Mark Wong, Nicole Burgio, Ben Grinberg, Lauren Johns, Nick Gillette (photo by Kate Raines)

Exile 2588 @ Painted Bride Art Center
Almanac Dance Circus Theatre

Exile 2588 is an acrobatic folk-music space epic adaptation of the story of Io set 572 years in to the future. Smashing together the genre of space epic with the sweet strains of American folk music, Almanac’s physical vocabulary swells to include break dance, static trapeze, and ever more innovative ensemble acrobatics, asking timeless questions about mortality and how much control we have over our bodies. Almanac’s signature style of physical storytelling, dance, and circus will be accompanied by an original song cycle by Chickabiddy (Aaron Cromie and Emily Schuman). The piece is outside eyed by Pig Iron Theatre Company’s Dan Rothenberg. [Disclaimer: This production does deal with serious themes of mortality and death.] More info and tickets here.

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Fringe at 20: Linda Dubin Garfield

Posted June 1st, 2016

Name: Linda Dubin Garfield

Linda Dubin Garfield (left) with Susan DiPronio (right), 2011

Linda Dubin Garfield (left) with Susan DiPronio (right), 2011

Type of Artist: Printmaker, mixed media artist

Fringe shows I’ve participated in: This is my 11th Fringe show at the Book Trader, 7 North 2 Street. I do mixed media memoir workshops on various topics: Invisible/Invincible Women: Portraits and stories of women of a certain age (2006), We Are What We Carry (2007), The Right Foot: Shoe Portraits (2008), Crowing Glories: Hair Portraits and Stories (2009), Let’s Face It: Self Portraits and Life Stories (2010), Home: A Place to be (2011), A Place to Be with Susan DiPronio (2011), What Nurtures Us (2012), My Body- My Self- My Story (2013), Best Friends (2014), Family: Portraits and Stories (2015).

With each topic, I have hooked up with a non-profit to collect money at a pre-Fringe birthday party in May as well as donations at the Fringe and sales of my images, the non-profit is related to the topic. So, for instance, when we did hair portraits, I donated to Locks of Love, Home to homeless agencies, Family to Family Support Services, My Body- My Self- My Story to breastcancer.org.

House on a Hill

House on a Hill

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: I am following the same format for this Fringe, doing it, however, with Susan DiPronio. Clothing: Stories from the Closet with proceeds and donations going to the New Day Drop In Center in Kensington for victims of human trafficking who often need clothing: socks, underwear, hoodies, etc.

First Fringe I attended: A friend took me to the Fringe in 2005 and I was astounded. We saw street art and performance, several great performances, and it was all in Old City. I knew I wanted to be part of it and went down to Old City looking for a venue with the window I wanted. Luckily, Peter Hiler from The Book Trader said okay I could do it there!!

First Fringe I participated in: 2006. Invisible/Invincible Women: Portraits and stories of women of a certain age. I loved the power of art to help create a comfortable space where people from all walks of life, who would normally never cross paths, came to the table and, while cutting, pasting and creating, shared their stories at a very deep level.

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